Archive for ‘nature’

November 26, 2011

The Cliff-Hut

I would not have found the hut myself except that one of my sheep found it first. The hut was over a cliffside, on a slender outcropping about five meters below the edge. Otherwise, the cliff’s face dropped a sheer seventy meters to a rocky beach pummeled by massive breakers. I found the sheep on the outcropping after a stray rabid dog spooked her from my flock. Even against the harsh wind and waves below, I could hear the frightened animal bleating. So could my flock, and they ran ahead of me to the cliff.

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September 23, 2009

“The Science of Swings”

Night looms, but how could we pass by a swingset? It is eternally correct to mount a swing on a fall night, like a schoolchild grasping hard at what strands of summer remain. All the more under sleepy orange sodium-vapor lamps screaming night even louder than the indigo sky. So we grasp the plastic-coated chain links, sit tentatively on the slight rubber curves that, mercifully, had dried from the earlier rain. We shove airborne from the mulch.

And we become wave motion, making between us a lattice of our respective amplitudes and frequencies, our crests and troughs. When in phase, I turn to look at you. I have always reveled more in the upswing than the backswing. Some prefer the back; it’s the anticipation I suppose, of all the joy waiting at the top of the arc. This, they say, is more enjoyable than the apogee itself.

I want to hang at the top of a swing forever; I wish my inner ear would keep rising higher ‘til I lose all sense of balance, sense of self, to childlike exultation. Here is flight for us common earthbound.

I breathe a bit easier when you close your eyes on the upswing, kicking out hard to remain weightless a moment longer, exactly as I do. I know we will leap into the mulch at the same time, and return to this swingset tomorrow. The next day too, if the weather doesn’t puddle the seats.





December 9, 2008

“The Mesa–Part I”

I thought for this one I’d try something new: break up a longer piece into smaller episodes. Here is the first.

We told the neighbors who saw us packing that we were headed to the Mesa for hang-gliding. Oh! they said. Then their eyes would drift from us to the car we stood before. We watched friendly smiles drift into confusion when they saw no sport rack on the car’s roof, no metal tubing or colorful folds of nylon stuffed in the back seat. These explanations became almost too awkward by the time we departed down the straight road into the desert. In truth, we had no idea how to explain this sojourn. Explanations, after all, have reasons, and it’s like you said: to do this thing we had to suspend our reason.

When you saw me absentmindedly doodling intricate, chaotic spirals on the morning paper, you tried to stifle a gasp. I asked what was wrong, not so much conscious of the question as reacting instinctively to the sound of your distress.

You don’t usually doodle, you said.

Huh. Guess not.

You took the paper, staring hard at my scribbles. Turning them to me, you asked if I had ever doodled those shapes before.

I shrugged. Don’t think so. Why?

The paper flew off the kitchen table as you rushed to your bag. You tore out your notebook and shoved it under my nose: the same spirals, in the margins of notes on Etruscan pottery.

Weird, I said.

It means something.

Might just be doodles. I spoke it into my coffee cup like a trumpeter mutes his horn. And you pulled my cup down from my face, gazing with a force only your will could summon.

Then we will make it mean something.

I never pretended to have any strength over that gaze. I never wanted any. I took your hand in mine, and your smile sang what wonders we might conjure from doodles.

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November 23, 2008


A long one, but I was proud.


October 4, 2007


The sink turns on every time, so you and I are not thirsty. This I know; this I’ve seen.

Colorado left me cold, which I suppose is Colorado’s job. A childhood of white everything stoked a hunger for the deeper tones—brick and blood reds, desert yellows, rich blues of ancient dye. For this hunger, I chose to leave Boulder as a tumbleweed, which raised everyone’s eyebrows. Eagle would have made my parents proud, and mountain would have offered some financial stability, but the notion of life as tumbleweed appealed to me: to be the ultimate freewheeler, rolling the Four Corners, slave to nothing, driven only by prevailing winds.

            I did not expect roots.

            In Utah, I tumbleweeded over holy roots that pulled at my loose deadgrass sphere. But for a strong gulfstream draft pulling me away, the holy roots would have me now. They wanted me to put on a tie, and they sang so well I was almost sold. Angels, they said, came now and again to give them the sweetest water you ever tasted. Just wait a while, and you’ll taste it. Tumbleweeds don’t drink water, sweet or not. As a seed, as a coyote, as a cloud, I would have stayed.

            In Arizona, I tried to tumbleweed into the oldest roots. I had heard airy stories, almost mystic stories, about the wisdom in the juices of these old roots. And they did go deep, or at least they claimed. Some could not remember their depths—perhaps yesterday, perhaps the first raindrop. Well I could not stay with the old roots, even if they wanted me to—and I’m not sure they did. The roots’ arms that touched me on the surface were starved and sick with bad water. They had forgotten how to reach deep for strength. The ones I saw anyway, but the stories came from somewhere I suppose.

            Plague ran rampant in New Mexico. Roots crumbled in every neighborhood I rolled past, and all the oldest ones had the same explanation: the strange roots from elsewhere made us sick. Now these strange roots didn’t say much at all, and the only sickness I could see was thirst. They worked hard inching their tendrils deep into the soil, where water might rest. Most of the new, strange roots accused the old ones of hoarding all the water. Maybe they did. Old roots do. But old roots also don’t work as hard; they don’t see the point. So When the young and strange roots found some water, they weren’t about to share it. And they all yelled at each other and hated at each other for the hottest parts of the day. Thank goodness for the winds off the Pacific; I wanted out of there before the water ran out again.

            Those Pacific winds blew me right back to Boulder. I shook off the shape of the deadgrass ball, fatigued of freewheeling. The rivers run rich from the mountains, and we all drink freely—I less so than others. I’ll ask for the smallest cups and sip gingerly as my family takes big gulps from jugs filled in springs and wells and glaciers. They tell me it’s a phase I’ll pass through, an artifact from the tumbleweeding. But I’ve seen thirsty; I am not thirsty. Small sips will do, from cups filled at the sink.

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